U.S. President Obama Announces Launch of US-EU Trade Negotiations

15 February 2013

United States President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union address on 12 February 2013 that the Administration intends to launch negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) with the European Union (EU).

T-TIP would promote U.S international competitiveness, jobs and growth by boosting the more than 13 million American and European jobs supported by transatlantic trade and investment. It would likely include a chapter on regulatory alignment to cut cost differences in regulations and standards by promoting greater compatibility, transparency and cooperation.

The announcement coincides with the release of a final report by the United States-European Union High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG), which was tasked at the U.S.-EU Summit in November 2011 with identifying policies and measures to increase U.S.-EU trade and investment.

In regards to regulatory alignment, the HLWG recommends:

Cross-cutting disciplines on regulatory coherence and transparency for the development and implementation of efficient, cost-effective, and more compatible regulations for goods and services, including early consultations on significant regulations, use of impact assessments, periodic review of existing regulatory measures, and application of good regulatory practices;

Provisions or annexes containing additional commitments or steps aimed at promoting regulatory compatibility in specific, mutually agreed goods and services sectors, with the objective of reducing costs stemming from regulatory differences in specific sectors, including consideration of approaches relating to regulatory harmonization, equivalence, or mutual recognition, where appropriate;

A framework for identifying opportunities for and guiding future regulatory cooperation, including provisions that provide an institutional basis for future progress.

According to the North American Toy Industry Association (TIA), In order to be of any benefit to the U.S. and European toy industries, a free trade agreement must comprehensively address regulatory divergences that present significant barriers for companies selling in both markets.

Complementing these trade agreement discussions, the U.S. standard-setting organization ANSI and EUs CEN (among others) have agreed to intensify collaboration for future standards alignment. ASTM is closely monitoring this partnership, as the standards setting organization is also looking to work with CEN to promote similar objectives. Such an agreement could positively impact future alignment between European and U.S. toy safety standards.

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